By Danilo P. Vizmanos
Speech delivered before the Conference on US Military Bases hosted by Korean anti-US bases organizations, Green Korea, and Korean Federation for the Environment, Seoul, South Korea, June 26, 1999.
The author is currently the military consultant of the Nuclear Free-Philippines Coalition, and Convenor of the Junk VFA Movement. He is a retired Philippine Navy Captain, former Chief of Staff of the Philippine Coast Guard and former Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He recently published his political memoirs, IN THE EYE OF THE STORM, which narrates his political awakening from an American Boy (“Amboy) who idolized General Douglas McArthur to an activist advocate for Philippine sovereignty.
The Filipino people’s struggle against foreign military presence in the country spans a period of more than 400 years. In 1521, the first military forces from a western power that ventured in the Asia-Pacific region were defeated by Filipino native warriors in the battle of Mactan island in the central islands of the Philippines. It was in this historic encounter where the leader of the Spanish expedition, Ferdinand Magellan, who claimed to have “discovered the Philippines,” was killed by Mactan chieftain, Lapu Lapu.
Spanish colonization of the Philippines which lasted for more than three centuries was eventually displaced by US imperialism in 1898. This was briefly interrupted by three years of Japanese military occupation of the islands during World War II.
In 1991, the Philippine Senate, rejected a new Philippine-US military bases agreement that ended 93 years of US military presence in the Philippines. This was short-lived because only last May 1999, a reconstituted and US-pressured Philippine Senate approved a Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that allows the return of US military forces in the country.
This US-imposed agreement was opposed and continues to be opposed by the vast majority of the Filipino people. Its approval by the Senate has been challenged before the Supreme Court by various people’s organizations and legal entities because it violates certain provisions of the Philippine constitution. Senate approval of the agreement led to the breakdown of the peace talks on the resolution of the 30-year conflict between the government and the National Democratic Front.
The Filipino people reject the VFA because of its one-sided, unequal, unjust, onerous and deceptive provisions. It has been described by the very influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) as “an agreement between a master and a lackey.” The agreement also renews local problems associated with foreign military presence on the proliferation of crimes, social and moral degeneration and spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. There is also the destructive effect on the environment and safety of local inhabitants arising from gunnery and bombing exercises involving the use of live ammunition in the countryside and coastal areas.
There are two main reasons behind the US imposition of the Visiting Forces Agreement:
1. the restoration of US military presence in the Philippines and in the Southeast Asian region; and,
2. the granting of special treatment and extraterritorial rights and privileges to US military forces stationed or deployed in the country. The agreement contains many loopholes and ambiguous and deceptive terms that virtually exempt US military as well as civilian support personnel from the jurisdiction and application of Philippine laws and justice system. In brief, it is a neo-colonial document that makes a mockery of Philippine sovereignty.
We consider the VFA as a neo-colonial instrument of the “new world order” that imposes US hegemony over the whole planet. It is part of the design of the US power elite to promote and intensify tension, crisis situations and the militarization of the Asia-Pacific region. Increased military activities such as joint military exercises boost the demand for, production and sale of armaments for the benefit of the US arms industry and the very powerful military-industrial complex.
The Filipino people vehemently oppose and denounce the US-imposed VFA because it does not enhance peace and harmonious relations in the region. It only serves those who benefit from wars, conflicts and hostilities. It is for these reasons that we in the people’s organizations in the Philippines appeal to all peace-loving and environment-concerned peoples of the world to join us in our opposition and condemnation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. We will certainly appreciate your gesture of solidarity and extension of support to our continuing and unrelentless struggle against foreign military intrusion and presence not only in the Philippines but also in the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Our opposition to the Visiting Forces Agreement is part of the world-wide struggle for humans rights, the dignity of life, and the preservation of a safe and healthy environment for the present and future generations of mankind!
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